Abortion in Costa Rica

The abortion in Costa Rica is very restricted. Currently, abortions are only allowed in order to preserve the physical health or life of the mother. Abortions are illegal in cases of rape or incest, when the fetus suffers from medical problems or birth defects, for social reasons, and for economic reasons. Abortions are not available in the form of demand, without a given reason. At present, it is not clear whether abortions are legal to preserve the mother’s mental health. 1

Currently the government of Costa Rica is in the process of issuing a protocol to regulate therapeutic abortion that is understood as legal in Costa Rican jurisdiction, but not being correctly regulated makes it difficult or even impossible to apply. 2 Initiative that caused the annoyance of the deputies of the country’s evangelical counterpart . In the 2014-2018 legislative period the deputies Epsy Campbell ( PAC ), Sandra Piszk ( PLN ) and Patricia Mora ( FA ) drove to the Committee on Social Affairs the draft Law on Sexual Rights regulating therapeutic abortion and allow distribution the emergency contraception causing the reaction of the Catholic Church . 3 A more daring project was previously submitted in the period 2006-2010 and signed by Federico Tinoco and Maureen Ballestero (PLN), Evita Arguedas Maklouf ( ML ), Alberto Salom (PAC), Ana Helena Chacón (then PUSC ) and José Merino ( FA), Bill 16887 provided a set of rights in reproductive sexual health and allowed women to have decision control over therapeutic abortion.

Legal Framework

The Costa Rican Penal Code states: 4

Judicial Forgiveness. ARTICLE 93.- It also extinguishes the sentence, the pardon that in sentence may be granted by the judges to the convicted, after a report that the Institute of Criminology gives on his personality, in the following cases:

4) Whoever has caused an abortion to save his own honor or has produced for that purpose an ascendant or descendant by consanguinity or sister;

5) The woman who caused her own abortion if the pregnancy was the result of a violation;

Abortion is punished in the following cases:

ARTICLE 118.- Who causes the death of a fetus will be repressed: 1) With imprisonment of three to ten years, if he acts without the consent of the woman or if she is under fifteen years. The penalty will be two to eight years, if the fetus (*) had reached six months of intrauterine life;

Abortion sought.

ARTICLE 119.- The woman who consents or causes her own abortion will be punished with imprisonment of one to three years. That penalty will be from six months to two years, if the fetus had not reached six months of intrauterine life.

Abortion honoris causa.

ARTICLE 120. If the abortion has been committed to conceal the dishonor of the woman, either by herself or by third parties with the consent of the woman, the penalty shall be three months to two years in prison.

Wrongful abortion

ARTICLE 122.- It will be punished with sixty to one hundred and twenty days fine, anyone who by fault causes an abortion.

On the other hand, abortion is never punished in the following case:

Unpunished abortion.

ARTICLE 121.- The abortion practiced with the consent of the woman by a doctor or by an authorized obstetrician is not punishable, when it has not been possible the intervention of the first, if it has been made in order to avoid a danger to life or Health of the mother and this has not been avoided by other means.


Currently, abortions in Costa Rica are the most commonly practiced in secret, whether in private clinics or by other means, where statistics on maternal deaths are difficult to obtain. In 2007, data showed that the number of illegal abortions is increasing, to 22.3 per 1,000 of 10.6 per 1,000 women. This comes to about 27,000 illegal abortions performed in Costa Rica each year. 5

Legal issues

Induced abortion is classified as a crime in the 1970 Penal Code, including crimes against life. Doctors who suspect that a woman has had an abortion are required to report to the Judicial Investigation Organization (IRO). The punishment may vary depending on whether or not the woman consented to the procedure, and depending on whether the fetus has reached six months of gestation. In 2003, there were no women’s prisons or prison doctors could do or have an abortion, however, there was a lawless woman, an untrained midwife accused of carrying out abortions, who served a three-year sentence. Although the United Nations Human Rights Council recommended in 1999 that Costa Rica should introduce more exceptions to the abortion ban, no reform has yet been made. 6

The public opinion

Public opinion on abortion in Costa Rica is mainly influenced by the Catholic Church . Under this religious presence, abortion under any circumstances is highly stigmatized and there are many doctors who would not perform an abortion for any reason whatsoever. 7

Political positions

Opposition to any form of abortion is frontally by conservative Christian parties such as the Costa Rican Renewal , National Restoration and Christian Democratic Alliance, conversely only the left-wing parties, generally Trotskyist , pose the legalization of abortion free and free (Financed by the state) under any circumstances, such as the Workers’ Party and the New Socialist Party . 8 However, most parties are placed somewhere between the two extremes.

Because the subject is highly sensitive and can arouse passions in the electorate, candidates are usually elusive on the subject and it is difficult to determine their exact positions. In general the majority of main parties accept therapeutic abortion or in case of danger of the life of the mother as it already understands the Costa Rican legislation, maintaining the status quo. This has generally been the stance of parties such as National Liberation and Christian Social Unity . In the campaign both Ottón Solís and Luis Guillermo Solís , candidates of the Citizen Action Party expressed their agreement with their extension to cases of rape , 9 but during the latter’s government no legal initiative was initiated to do so.

The Frente Amplio Party , the main party of the left and with legislative representation maintains a similar position. Its candidate, José María Villalta, in the 2014 campaign stated that the issue should be discussed in order to extend it in certain circumstances as an impossibility of extrauterine life, but did not see a viable legal reform in the near term. 10 Deputy Ligia Fallas of Frente Amplio presented a bill in a personal capacity for the complete decriminalization of abortion, although she did it personally and without the support of her staff. eleven

In the campaign of 2014 the candidate of the Libertarian Movement , Otto Guevara , was completely against any form of abortion, 12 although according to liberal commentator Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Guevara in the past agreed in cases of rape and The ML as a party was founded by people with different positions on the matter. 13


  1. Back to top↑ «Summary of Abortion Laws Around the World» . April 5, 2002 . Retrieved on April 22, 2011 .
  2. Back to top↑ Cambronero, Natasha (2016). «Luis Guillermo Solis defended regulation of therapeutic abortion before the Vatican» . The Nation . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .
  3. Back to top↑ Soto, Jimena (2011). «Epsy Campbell:” The first thing the Church should do is not lie . ” CRHoy . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .
  4. Back to top↑ Legislative Assembly (1972). Criminal Code of Costa Rica . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .
  5. Back to top↑ “Costa Rica Report Indicates Number of Illegal Abortions Supposedly Rising” (in English) . Retrieved on April 22, 2011 .
  6. Back to top↑ “Costa Rica” (in English) . Archived from the original on May 17, 2013 . Retrieved on April 22, 2011 .
  7. Back to top↑ “Costa Rica Country Program” (in English) . Archived from the original on November 7, 2015 . Retrieved on April 22, 2011 .
  8. Back to top↑ Zeledon, Paola. «Costa Rica – The Struggle for Legal Abortion» . MAS.org . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .
  9. Volver arriba↑ González, Daniel (2014). «Los partidos políticos en Costa Rica: un acercamiento histórico». AFEHC. Consultado el 10 de septiembre de 2016.
  10. Back to top↑ “What is your position regarding abortion José María Villalta FA . Smart Vote . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .
  11. Back to top↑ Madrigal, Karla (2016). «Deputy of the Frente Amplio seeks support to decriminalize abortion in Costa Rica» . The Republic . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .
  12. Back to top↑ Murillo, Alvaro (2014). “Abortion and religion stirred up the first debate in the TSE”. The nation.
  13. Back to top↑ Hidalgo, Juan Carlos (2014). «Libertarian Movement or Christian?” . The Financial . Retrieved on September 10, 2016 .